History of How the Lake Began

Wonder Lake was developed in 1929. These photos depict the beginning of Wonder Lake, and it's dam. The photos are drawn from a series of lake renewal calendars that were issued 1985 through 1989 by the MPOA and the Wonder Lake State Bank.

Today, Wonder Lake is 832 acres making it one of the largest private lakes in Illinois.  It is approximately 3 miles long with 7 miles of shoreline. Average depth is 6 1/2 feet with the deepest part of the lake, 14 feet, near the dam. There are 6 islands and 14 boat ramps. Each subdivision has it's own beach, and those beaches are for use of residents with lake rights that do not have lake shore property.

Wonder Lake has a very healthy fishery with large and small mouth bass, walleye, bluegill, sunfish crappie, perch and even muskie. Rough fish include carp, bullheads and catfish. The Sportsman Club and MPOA stock the lake with $3,000 to $4,000 worth of game fish each year.  Dredging project during 2014/15 season, removed 470,000 cubic yards of sediment from the lake, which is enough to cover a football field 26 stories high, creating an additional 100 acres of deeper, cleaner water.

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Nippersink Creek, 1929
The Nippersink Creek flows gently from the north. It's origin is found in the Lake Geneva glacial area, where once mightly glaciers came to settle and melt. In 1929, E.R. Jacobson, leader of a real estate development group, purchased properties in and around the large glen where Nippersink meandered to the northeast. A dam was built between the two hills, a 1000 feet apart, and Nippersink began to form what is now Wonder Lake. Photo by Lester Klintworth
Nippersink Creek enters Greenwood Township
The Nippersink Creek enters Greenwood Township and passes under the bridge at Queen Anne's Road. Legend has it that many of the mounds in the area are the actual burial sites of Native American members of the Potawatomi tribe. Back then the creek curved towards the north and east, flowing through a large valley before passing under Barnard Mill Road.
Spring Woods, 1929
During the summer of 1929 the gates of the dam were closed until the water reached a level of the Ringwood/Greenwood Road that passed over the creek as well as a small tributary that entered the valley from the east near deep Springs Woods. The filling of the lake had to stop until the developers purchased the soon to be flooded right of way, and build a new road from platted subdivisions on the west side of the dam, all the  way to Rte 120. Photo by Joan Turner
Dam Construction
Dam Construction, 1929, photo by Lester Klintworth
Dam Construction Overview
Dam Construction, 1929, photo by Lester Klintworth
Lake Fill, 1930
On February 22, 1930, water began to flow over the dam's spillway for the first time. The lake now consists of approximately 840 surface acres of water. It is estimated that the Nippersink creek drains approximately 120 square miles of land, photo by Lester Klintworth.
Wonder View, 1930
Wonder View, 1930, photo by Lester Klintworth
Dam view, 1934
Fishing in the spillway of the dam. photo by C. Jacobson
Lookout view, 1930's
View from Lookout Tower, 1930's. The whole plan of forming the lake and developing the property evolved from this point. The building pictured was a real estate office. The lookout tower no longer exists today. Photo by C, Jacobson
July 6, 1938
On July 6, 1938, a upstream thunderstorm sent a wall of water downstream threatening the dam. As the water level in the lake continued to rise, a group of Wonder Lakers, fearing total washout, rushed to the north end and began to sand bag the earthen dam. The dam held, in spite of water levels exceeding 3 feet above normal. Photo by C. Jacobson
Adams Dam destroyed 1938
The deluge of water washed out a bridge on Greenwood Road and destroyed the Adams Dam located just west of Thompson Road. The bridge was repaired, but the Adams Dam remains in ruins to this day, covered with brush and overgrown trees, barely visible after more than 60 years. Photo by C. Jacobson
1938 Dam Repair
To repair the damage the flood caused to the spillway, large concrete blocks were formed on the shoreline & positioned into the spillway with a crane. Photos by C. Jacobson
Flood Repair, 1938
To repair the damage the flood caused to the spillway, large concrete blocks were formed on the shoreline & positioned into the spillway with a crane. Photos by C. Jacobson
Lookout Point, 1940's
Lookout Point, 1940's, photo by C. Jacobson.
East Shore, 1940
South East Shore of Wonder Lake, 1940. Wooded Shores Subdivision, orginally named Wicklein Bay Farms, is visible in the lower third of the photo, below the creek. Photo by C. Jacobson
Lookout view, 1946
Lookout view, 1946, photo by Ken & Betty Gabel.
Hancock Dr, 1960's
View down Hancock Drive, in the 1960's. Intersection of Hancock Dr., and E. Wonder Lake Rd, facing west, towards Center Beach. Photo by Bill Sullivan
White Oaks Bay
Indian tribe known as Big Foot, once camped in the area now known as White Oaks Bay. They fished, hunted, and planted corn in the rich soil along Nippersink Creek. After the expansion of Wonder Lake, sailboats now glide through the "Narrows" during the warmer months of the year. Photo by Western Service
Center Beach, 1983
Aerial photo of the downtown area Center Beach, 1983. Photo by Western Service
Lake Drawdown, 1986
The spring lake drawdown in 1986 reveled the old concrete bridge & road that used to be the main thouroughfare between Greenwood & Wonder Lake. The road & bridge were covered by the expanding waters of the lake in 1929. The new dam gates remained open until East Wonder Lake road was built to provide travelers with an alternate route. Once the dam gates were closed, the lake expanded to it's present 840 acres.